A year ago, an eager crowd filled the Coliseum to see the Rams play the Cowboys in the first NFL game in Southern California in more than two decades — and to see Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft.
Goff came off the bench and played two forgettable series
“There was 90,000 people at a preseason game, so I was a little wide-eyed at first,” Goff recalled this week.
He looked more relaxed Saturday. He again played only two series but this time produced a touchdown in the Rams’ 2017 preseason opener, a 13-10 victory over the Cowboys in a stadium that featured large swaths of empty seats.
“Just like any other game, you take good things from it and you take bad things from it and you learn from it and get better,” Goff said. “Especially, preseason [game] 1. Our first time back out there.”
New coach Sean McVay saw some bright spots and some areas of concern in his first game.
On offense, Goff avoided turnovers and sacks and two rookies, receiver Cooper Kupp and tight end Gerald Everett, made a few good catches. Running back Todd Gurley rushed for only four yards in four carries — about equaling his entire 2016 preseason workload — and other Rams running backs fumbled multiple times.
A Rams defense without several starters, among them linebackers Robert Quinn and Mark Barron, cornerback Kayvon Webster and holdout end Aaron Donald, fared well against a Cowboys offense that did not include starting quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott or receiver Dez Bryant.
“We’ll take the win however we can get it,” McVay said. “Certainly, there’s going to be a lot of things that we’ve got to clean up but I thought it was a great opportunity to get out in front of our fans and come away with a win.”
McVay spent several seasons as the Washington Redskins’ offensive coordinator and play-caller before he was hired by the Rams. He is calling plays and getting accustomed to mixing those responsibilities with those of a head coach.
“The one thing that I’m going to have to continue to get used to is the transition between offensive series,” he said. “Where you’re kind of getting some thoughts here and there but still being involved with what’s [happening] on defense and special teams.”
The Rams have remaining preseason games against Oakland, the Chargers and Green Bay to hone their strengths and work out problems before the Sept. 10 season opener against the Indianapolis Colts at the Coliseum.
The team addressed a major concern on Friday when they acquired receiver Sammy Watkins in a trade with the Buffalo Bills. Watkins, who will give the Rams and Goff a legitimate deep-ball threat, arrived in Los Angeles a few hours before kickoff and watched the game in street clothes.
Watkins said he was “100% healthy” and that the foot injury that sidelined him part of last season and required surgery was “out the door.”
“I just can’t wait to . . . get out there and learn the offense and really get started,” he said before the game.
Watkins will begin practicing on Monday.
The same probably cannot be said of star defensive lineman Donald, who has been absent since the start of training camp because of a contract dispute.
McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips have downplayed how Donald’s continued absence is affecting the implementation of Phillips’ 3-4 defense. The Rams also lost lineman Dominque Easley for the season because of a knee injury.
The starting defensive line on Saturday featured tackle Michael Brockers flanked by Ethan Westbrooks and Louis Trinca-Pasat.
Last year against the Cowboys, Goff played two second-quarter series, one that ended with an interception and another that ended with a sack.
On Saturday’s first play, Goff’s short pass to receiver Robert Woods fell incomplete. Dallas stuffed Gurley for a three-yard loss on second down, then Goff completed a nine-yard pass to Gurley.
There wasn’t much time to reflect on the three-and-out. The Cowboys fumbled the ensuing punt and Rams linebacker Josh Forrest recovered the ball at Dallas’ 33-yard-line.
On second down, Goff made his best play. He faked a handoff to his right and then rolled left, finding Kupp for a 19-yard gain.
Two plays later, on third and six from the nine, Goff completed a pass to Woods on a slant route. Woods fumbled when he was hit, but Kupp recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
That was it for Goff. He completed three of four passes for 34 yards. He gave way to Sean Mannion, who passed for three touchdowns in last year’s victory over Dallas.
Mannion completed 18 of 25 passes for 144 yards.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein